3 Ways inReach Made Our Mountaineering Trip Easier

Brian and I recently returned from a trip of a lifetime: we went to the highest place on earth we’ve ever been. With our hut at 2057 meters (6750 ft) and peaks rising from there, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Would our bodies respond favourably to the altitude? Would we move efficiently through the terrain? Would we even like being up there? Would our inReach work???

Aside: An inReach is the world’s first two-way satellite communicator with built-in navigation. It has the ability to plan routes and waypoints ahead of time, receive weather forecasts, and can send and receive messages to any cell phone, email address or inReach device. It can also pair with Facebook and Twitter for update. It also has a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer sensors that provide heading and bearing info, accurate elevation readings, speed, and more. (source)

In those 7 days at the ACC Toronto Section‘s mountaineering camp, Selkirks North, I was full to the brim with knowledge. I learned about managing risk, conquering exposure, how to stare at and study the clouds for a really important purpose – safety – and more. I learned that tools were important; specific ropes, shoes, techniques… And I learned how much I truly value owning an inReach.

Like a lot of the backcountry hiking we’ve done with our inReach, here in the Selkirks there is no cell signal. There is no landline. There isn’t anyone but the group you came in with. While still remaining satisfactorily disconnected from the world we enjoyed escaping for a few days, having a tool like the inReach allowed us a little more intel about the terrain, the atmosphere, and what was to come.

Here are 3 ways inReach made our alpine adventure easier:

Checking the Weather

Weather, I learned, is one of the key factors in deciding your day when you’re at in the mountains. If there are clouds in the sky, you study them at all hours of the day. Was it cloudy overnight? If so, the snow on the mountains will be softer than if it were clear. Are there clouds at 3am? 4am? 5am? It might not be a great idea to push too far ahead. Will it rain tomorrow? What sorts of risks come along with these situations?

Our ACMG guide Mark Klassen said he uses a satellite phone to call someone for weather reports every couple days. On the 3rd day, he tried to contact his source but the calls continually dropped. That’s when I discovered the inReach’s ability to check the weather. For the cost of one message, you can get a 3-day forecast for a waypoint or your location. Because we had variable cloudiness all week, having this information available to us was extremely valuable.

Like a kid in elementary school who’d just finished their drawing before anyone else, I eagerly brought my findings to the group. “I have the weather!” I said proudly. They initially seemed hesitant, perhaps because we talked up this connectivity device in a place where we all worshipped remoteness. But as the week went on individuals planning specific routes began to ask if we could check the weather for a certain area. “Yes!” I said. And this information helped them plan accordingly.

The inReach, in this situation, provided a small bit of assurance allowing executable prep both with gear and mental planning.

Communication

Our camp was graciously and expertly catered by Mo’s Mountain Cuisine. “Remember, this is a vacation,” one of our leaders told me when my jaw dropped to the floor upon seeing our first 3-course meal.

“Right,” I replied, devouring dinner.

Heather (pictured below) had a binder full of recipes, a meal plan she executed with ease. But we were week 1 of a 2 week camp and the dropped calls on the satellite phone began to worry her. How would she communicate with her colleague about restocking food for week 2? We offered up our inReach of course and with 3 messages she was able to contact ground control. This was our first experience at altitude where the inReach completely mitigated our quandary. But this wasn’t our last…

InReach-ThePeakbaggers-Selkirks-02

On the last day of our trip, despite being warned about the inability of keeping to scheduled pick-ups when going in and out of the mountains via helicopter, we had a tight schedule. Here was the low down: I was co-host of my cousin’s baby shower happening on Sunday in London, Ontario. I really wanted to be there and so I took a deep breathe when booking our travel and said that the risk of making such tight travel plans was worth possibly making the shower. The latest flight from Calgary to London that would allow us to make it to the shower on time departed Sunday at 6am. Are scheduled departure from the Hut was Saturday at 2pm. As 2pm approached, when we were supposed to be picked up by helicopter and brought to our shuttle back to Golden, the helicopter was nowhere to be seen.

Missing this 2pm helicopter pick up meant that the odds of us catching the last bus out of Golden at 7pm were low. If we missed the last bus, how would we get to Calgary? Thankfully, with our inReach device, we were able to contact Brian’s mom who was standing by in case we required help shuffling our travel tickets around. We spent the afternoon at ease as she researched different ways for us to get to town and texted them back to the device. This information helped others travelling to Calgary, too.

We ended up making it to the baby shower through a strange fusion of seclusion and connection. The inReach device really helped us out of a bind.

Route Finding

Perhaps the most obvious and practical use of the inReach is route finding. When we embarked on a 6 hour granite climb up Quadrant – an adventure that turned into a 12.5 hour day due to elements and our route, we used the device to see exactly where we were, where we took a wrong turn, and where we descended. The device also gave us accurate timings, elevation, and maps so that other groups could leverage this knowledge and apply it to their climbs up Quadrant in the following day (yes – our adventure paired with our GPS route fuelled others to climb Quadrant!).

We also used the inReach when summitting Mount Damon (2740 m/8990 ft). While this route was very direct and we didn’t really require any route finding, we did enjoy the ability to study our path, elevation, and waypoints. 

 The inReach allowed us insight that we wouldn’t otherwise have without it. It played a key role in planning and execution of alpine adventures and helped set aside some unavoidable stressed that comes with travelling in the backcountry. It’s definitely remains a must-have in my pack, and an investment I’m extremely happy with.


Why I’m Thrilled to Run the Bruce Trail

Blog Post- The Bruce Trail 01.JPGThe first time I saw a map of the Bruce Trail I took a photo of it and it didn’t even fit into the frame.

I thought it was neat, albeit surprisingly long, and covered territory that I’d often driven over or through in my many commutes between my birthplace of London, my new hometown Toronto, and my many adventures across the Southern Ontarian landscape.

All that to say, I wondered why I’d never heard of it.

Last fall I was approached by Aly Bird who pitched an idea to me: a relay run of the entire Bruce Trail by an all-female team. I immediately said yes and, although I’m not an avid runner, I thought this adventure would be a good goal-inside-a-goal to my larger mountaineer training schedule. And so I started furiously searching for information about this infamous trail.

There are many countless things in life that you’ve never heard of because there are many… well… countless things in life. I’d always been fascinated by the outdoors but it wasn’t until I found my true adult self here in Toronto that I’ve begun to explore the green space all around me. I find that when you put your best foot forward with the truest intentions, the places and people you’ve always longed to meet have a really inherent way of making themselves known. So here I was holding a map of the Bruce Trail and trying to wrap my head around how we’d all get from one end to the other in a mere matter of days.

Running the Bruce Trail is just one example of a tangible goal. It’s a big one for me, mostly because it involves running, but it’s also a big one in terms of numbers, heavily reliant on a group of motivated people. Running the Bruce Trail stands as an example of capability, belief, and chance: it challenges the ideas I have of myself and how capable I think I am, it fuels me with the belief that I am not a couch potato despite all those late night pizza-eating binge-tv-watching nights I have to myself, and it forces me to take a chance on myself, the group I’m a part of, and the land that we’ll tread.

As much and as often as I travel, it’s taken me this long to begin to explore the land that is all around me. And in doing so, I must must must must emphasize this:

Canada is friggin’ amazing.

I’ve travelled hours on an overseas flight to get to places I’ve only dreamed of being – ones I read about in textbooks during World History 101 – and I’ve done just as much research on those trips as I have for this one. It’s so important to familiarize yourself with where you’re going because it changes our time and place within it. I am thrilled to explore these 900 kilometers of Southern Ontario. All because of this:

BTregions_2011The Bruce Trail has been around since 1960, the brainchild of 4 dudes who convinced Niagara escarpment landowners and a few surrounding towns to build a connected footpath for public use. Over the next 7 years regional clubs between Niagara and Tobermory were formed and by 1967 the Bruce Trail was officially born. It’s 895 km long, stretching over public and private land as roadside trail and emboldened, hidden pathways… and only 51.4% of it is safe from development.

But here we are, and as a result of people – ordinary people – dedicated to keeping this pathway connected and available for public use, the Bruce Trail has existed in its entirety for 49 years. These people (The Bruce Trail Conservatory) work towards annual acquirement of land so that this trail can maintain in tact for people like us to run it, and for others to walk, stroll, dance, climb, and experience it.

The first part of the trail – Tobermory to Wiarton – is the roughest and most remote but apparently has some of the best cliffside views of Georgian Bay of 10 storey cliffs. From there the trail is marked with white blazes, side trails marked in blue blazes, so we hopefully won’t get lost! It is considered a footpath so no motorized vehicles – even horses – are allowed on the trail, save for the road sides parts. This is to respect not only the landowners but the land itself!

Think about it: in some places, only feet will have tread the land.

There are caves and crevices along the way.

Rattlesnakes and bears. Rattlesnakes. Rattle. Snakes. But don’t worry – apparently their fangs are tiny and they have a very short strike distance. “Stop, listen for the rattle and go back the other way,” a tip from the BT Magazine.

Plants that can blind you. “Putting Poison Ivy to shame, the harmful effects of Giant Hogweed can be severe, including burns, blisters, scarring and even permanent blindness,” explains this pamphlet. Imagine a piece of green so fierce! This plant sounds like a monster!

GIant Hogweed: “The average height of a typical plant ranges between 8-15 feet. It has distinctive umbrella shaped clusters of small white flowers that grow on massive seed heads that can be up to 2 feet across. Its leaves are dark green and coarsely toothed and can be huge, growing upwards of 5 feet wide. Perhaps the most identifying features, apart from the size of this monstrous plant (no other similar plant compares to its size), are the purple blotches or spots that exist on the hollow green bristly stem.”

Warblers and wild flowers!

In spring, the frogs come alive, too. Wood frogs, Spring Peepers and Chrous frogs… Yippee!

I get real excited to hear nature, not just to be in it. But I always think of running as being a quiet sport. It can be independent, charged, emotional, heavy, hard, and hearty but I wouldn’t say it’s quiet – and this always surprises me (especially in winter!!). When I run, I’m a loud breather and deep thinker. I sometimes talk aloud because I was told that if you’re training properly, you should be able to have a conversation while running. I never could and now I can so I just want to talk talk talk! It’s a wonder I think running is quiet because it’s actually so loud.

When I run in nature I expect to hear all the things when, in most cases, I can primarily hear the thump thump of my heart. I guess the difference is that I hear my heart, and then I hear something amazing: I hear wind, and the trees, and my feet against the terrain, and I feel my hands on my face and my hips and, if I’m lucky, I feel so surrounded by wildlife because I see. Beats the honking cars, people on cell phones, the podcast in my ears, and the inherent urge to run the city without getting hit by a car! I’ll take a sleepy rattlesnake over that.


Join the list of people receiving stories of inspiration, workout ideas, and more every Monday, before anyone else. Subscribe to the newsletter!


An Update on What We’ve Been Doing For 3 Months

At the end of 2015 we told you we were taking a break from writing these blog updates, but not a break from our greater journey. We talked about how taking time off can be a difficult yet necessary decision. We love writing these posts and that decision back in December was difficult. Looking back, it was also a really great choice.

We’ve been up to a lot and I would love to update you on the highlights right now.

The beginning of 2016 has been dedicated to planning and preparation. There are six expeditions ahead of us that we hope to accomplish in two years. Five of those require being dropped in remote areas via chartered flights. Four will be involve traversing glaciers and dealing with avalanches. Two will require rock climbing skills. All of them will be difficult.

Knowing this means we know what we have to work on. On the glacier expeditions we hope to skin our way up the mountains and ski/snowboard down. So we need to practice or skiing/snowboarding. We also need to train in crevasse rescue and avalanche safety. For the expeditions that involve climbing, we need to learn how to lead climb and practice trad (outdoor) climbing as well. Then there are all the logistics of contacting parks, charter flight operators, preparing meal plans, etc.

Here is what we’ve been doing so far

Skiing/Snowboarding

  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding (2)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding (5)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding (4)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding (3)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding (1)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Skiing-Snowboarding

We spent the winter practicing our skiing and snowboarding. I’ve been snowboarding my whole life, but haven’t been in the past two seasons, so this was a good refresher. Andrea and I both really worked on our control and carving. It was Andrea’s second season skiing, so I’m sure she’ll share many more updates on how she progressed.

Climbing

  • The-Peakbaggers-Basecamp
  • The-Peakbaggers-Basecamp (4)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Basecamp (3)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Basecamp (2)
  • The-Peakbaggers-Basecamp (1)

A new climbing gym, Basecamp, opened very close to where Andrea and I live and we took this as a chance to climb and climb often. The walls are 40ft tall (the highest in Toronto) and spending three sessions a week there is definitely challenging our bodies. I’ve also been working with the staff on getting some coaching tips for training and will be sharing those on the blog soon.

Reading

It’s one thing to get our bodies right for these excursions. Getting our minds ready is an important factor too. As we’ve already learned on our past six expeditions, there is a lot of stress that comes with being isolated in the wilderness. These upcoming expeditions will only be more difficult, more isolated, and more stressful.

Over the past three months I took to reading a lot more about mountaineering and plan to continue this habit. So far I’ve read the following books:

  • Not Won In A Day – an account of Jack Bennet on being the first person to summit the highest point in every Canadian Province and Territory. (we hope to be the first all-Canadian team). This book is a great resource to plan for our excursions and includes lots of maps and trip details.
  • Wild – the account of Cheryl Strayed hiking a large portion of The PCT. This book really showcased what it means to have perseverance. It gave me the confidence that if I put my mind to something and stick with it, I can do anything.
  • Into Thin Air – the harrowing account of the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest. This book is an incredibly well-written, detailed, and dramatic account of how a bunch of small mistakes can lead to big errors. Despite the terror and tragedy, it only inspired me more to be in the mountains.

 


Join the list of people receiving stories of inspiration, workout ideas, and more every Monday, before anyone else. Subscribe to the newsletter!


PEI, Missing Flights, and Channeling Happiness: how my attitude affects what happens in my life

I scribbled this post on the plane back from Vancouver, British Columbia to our home in Toronto, Ontario last week, Thursday, October 22nd, 2015:

This morning we woke up in a king size bed overlooking the Vancouver harbour. Speckled red and orange trees amongst coastal evergreens filled the backdrop of our wide window behind boats and in front of mountains where clouds moved them in and out of sight. How gloriously lucky I felt to be there in that moment among fluffy pillows and beside someone I truly loved. It’s almost inexplicable for I know its feeling is far greater than any sentence I could ever write.

IMG_5067

We got dressed to the sounds of a Canadian classic: Dumb and Dumber. I snickered at jokes about hooters — referring to owls — and Brian stared up at me with a smirk. We took hands and embarked on a quick walk to the park before heading back to Toronto. “A quick walk, breakfast, a coffee shop stop… We’ll pick up your gift at Mark’s and then drop Shannon’s gift off before heading straight to the airport. I think we’ll make it,” I said. “It’ll be tight,” was Brian’s response with slight hesitation. Looking at our plan now, it seems drastically complicated with what time we had.

Our walk was beautiful. We stepped fifty feet into the park before turning back but it was a splendid handful of moments. The bike and walking paths were packed with people whose purpose was to strictly enjoy Stanley Park at 10am on a Thursday. We knew this because there wasn’t anywhere else to go along the path but into the park. What a harmonizing thought, that this many people were set off to enjoy the trees and the waterfront. I felt envious that this could be a daily deal for residents, and that I never did this regularly when I lived here.

We spent most of our moments with one tall tree, bare in bark until two thirds up where it blossomed in green. A stump stood ten feet in front of it as the perfect pedestal for its photographical worship. We obliged.

thepeakbaggers-vancouver-stanleypark
We jumped in a smart car and flew to Forty Ninth Parallel, one of the best coffee shops in the world according to Roast. We’ve had their stuff before but going there was supreme. Our coffees were starkly different in taste but equally delicious. A perfect cap to our full breakfast bellies and foliage-reflected eyes. Besides their coffee, there were donuts and beautiful teal coloured cups that made me weak in the knees, especially when set against the mahogany coloured hardwood that made up the cafe. A thrilling pinterest-worthy view. When we rushed out, the sun shone and, though I fretted about being late, I was happy we were here.

Two quick trips back in the smart car to pick up a thank you gift and to drop another off and we were off to the airport. I reconciled in my mind that we would make it in time and would likely not get our checked bag onto the plane. We were heading home so I wasn’t worried. In my much travelled life, showing up 45 minutes before your flight meant our luggage would get the shaft and make it onto another flight and we’d get it later. That’s fine. Zipping through town we parked the car promptly, made it to the airport shuttle pickup, and into the terminal, running like Catherine O’Hara did when she realized Kevin wasn’t on their flight to Paris. My hair is even long enough now to feel legitimately similar to her as I ran.

We didn’t make it in time. “The bag must stay with the passenger,” we were told and, thus, we’re not allowed on the flight. We were about two minutes past the 45 minute cut off for bag check, despite being told we were supposed to arrive an hour prior. My mood dropped. I don’t like when my perfectly planned timelines are thwarted by conflicting information and a policy that didn’t lend any grace to help two out of breath youngin’s onto their flight home. I felt defeated by the system and my eyes welled at the complexity of my emotions.

We opted to go on standby in hopes that we’d get onto one of the next 4 flights leaving Vancouver. I spent the next hour chronically all my airport marathon runs (yes — I’ve had handfuls) and how they’d always seemed to work out and I wondered why this one wasn’t the same. I dwelled in our mistake, to be honest, and my mood turned into a thick sludge as we waited to hear if we’d get on the next flight.

We did, we got onto the flight. “Middle seats are all we have,” said the clerk as she handed us our boarding passes. Upon entering the plane and seeing my seat, I had to chuckle and feel utterly sorry for myself, still in a thick emotional sludge at the sight of where I was to sit for the next 5 hours:

IMG_5073

“This is karma,” I thought to myself. “This seat is karma for my rotten mood the past hour.”

When I sat down and said bye to Brian who moved to the back of the plane, I told myself that my time to be needlessly upset was over. I wholly believe that you choose your attitude and my poor one led me to this chair. I’d had long enough to feel silly for missing something that seemed so grandure in my mind. Would I take away anything we did this morning to make that flight, now knowing that everything worked itself out? No way! I wouldn’t take away our mountain view, our park romp, our quiet breakfast, our coffee and donut date, our quick goodbye and thank you pit stops… I wouldn’t want to leave this beautiful city without one of those things, and here I was on a plane going home at no extra cost, an hour after our initial takeoff. I have a choice, I told myself. I must feel gratitude, I said. And so I did.

Two weeks ago we were on Prince Edward Island marvelling at the red roads and hilled valleys. We’d seen New Brunswick’s peak and had no idea what we were in for in Cape Breton’s Nova Scotia. We visited friends, cafes, the Hopewell Rocks, and harbours and here I was now, on the other side of the country, feeling sorry for myself for enjoying Stanley Park a little too long. As I pulled out book one of Anne of Green Gables, which I’d picked up when visiting the gable, I thought about how incredibly lucky I was to have the morning I did. To see the water, mountains, to breath the air and to stare up the trunk of a thousand year old tree. And then to think the book in my lap came from a place 6000 km away and to say that I’d just been there, well, I’m anything in the world but unlucky.

IMG_5083

The greatest feeling this whole day is sitting in this seat and letting the thick emotional sludge slide down and out of me. Letting it slide into the floor of the plane, through it, past the luggage and random boxes and letting it go into the windy outside world. I’m sitting here channelling my inner Anne and trying to end this post with a just verbalization of what it is like to travel across this country in all its glory. To choose to do so. To ditch my dreams of Thailand, Columbia, Romania, and Mexico for the mean time so I can see the sights I’ve dreamed about since youth. We learn about this landscape our whole lives, it’s like we’ve already seen it, but breathing in the air outside Green Gables, watching the ocean rise around the Hopewell Rocks, standing amidst an 800 year old hollow tree, or skipping along lookout in the hilled valleys of Saskatchewan (yes — hills!) is nothing compared to words on paper.

If The Peakbaggers does anything, I hope it encourages just one person to journey to these spots and to feel as grateful as I am for doing so. We can read all we want in book but setting a goal and achieving it is nothing compared to turning the next page and reading on about someone else’s adventure. I hope you can make it your own because, after all, this country is ripe for exploring.


Get words of inspiration, workout ideas, and more in your Inbox every week. Subscribe to our newsletter!


A Handful of Mountaineering Tips from Helmut Microys

This year we joined the Alpine Club of Canada (the ACC), an organization founded in 1906 with a focus on mountaineering. We joined the Toronto chapter which offers trips, meet ups, and other opportunities to explore the world of mountaineering within our own community. Besides the incredible community that we’re welcomed in to, another great perk of the ACC is their huts located across Canada and the U.S. that offer accommodations for members at really incredible rates.

Our first meet up with the ACC was a talk by Helmut Microys. We all gathered in the upstairs of a pub off Yonge – it was packed. Scattered pints, grins, and anticipation packed the space between members as we huddled beside one another for a peak at the projector screen.

Helmut has six decades of climbing experience. His thick accent and quick sense of direction led us on a journey up and down slopes he’s conquered in his native Austria and around the world. It was my first time hearing someone talk in detail about their mountaineering experience and offering advice on crevasses, scrambling, and experienced to extremely inexperienced passerbys.

He made a joke explaining scrambling and why it’s important to be really good at it. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s dead easy. I said that once to someone and he said to me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t say dead,’ so I guess I should say, ‘It’s life easy.'” This was the sort of humour Helmut had.

There are about six or seven points that Helmut made that stuck out to me, a novice climber.

If you don’t put your socks on standing on one leg, start. It’s good practice.

Good balance is a key element to your own and others safety.

Scramble scramble scramble. Practice makes perfect.

Scrambling lies somewhere between rock climbing and hiking. Often on a rock edge or ridge, your hands and feet (but no ropes) are used as you move up or down the path. It is important to know how to scramble effectively so that you and your team can approach loose rock and unknown territory safely and soundly.

The second most important element of mountaineering next to scrambling is finding your route.

Have an updated and working GPS system and map.

If you can help it, never run out of rope.

There are many stories of climber summiting peaks and running out of rope a few feet shy of the top. It’s important to calculate your distances precisely and to do your best to ensure this does not happen.

Learn how to do it blindly.

Helmut urged that it’s smart to be able to comfortably climb and descend an area blindly. Tying knots, fishing in your pack, accessing different tools – it’s a good idea to know where everything is located with your eyes closed. This will give you the confidence and ability to go up and down with as little trouble as possible.

And last but not least, I scribbled down Helmut’s last slide, not out of fear, but out of determination to prepare for each and every one of these factors.

helmutmicroys_acc_presentation

The many ways of falling off a moutain:

  • Rock fall
  • Avalanche
  • Seracs
  • Crevasses (Glaciers, humps, dips, and transported snow (streaks).. You’d don’t walk you belay..)
  • Moats (Randkluft)
  • Bergshchrund
  • Repelling
  • Sudden bad weather
  • Altitude sickness
  • Hypothermia
  • Frost bite
  • River crossing
  • Animals
  • Bad judgement

Header Photo © Helmut Microys, 1967, Mt. Ontario


Get words of inspiration, workout ideas, and more in your Inbox every Monday. Subscribe to our newsletter!

 


Why Peer Validation Feels So Good

Have you ever had an idea and asked yourself, “Is this any good?” Or maybe you’re one of those super-confident types that tells themselves, “I know this idea is good!”

If you’re like me, you’ve fallen in to both camps. And regardless of where you stand, chances are at some point self-doubt has crept up while you’ve been working on a project or are in the process of trying to complete something. It’s natural to doubt. And doubt can be good. But doubt can also hold you back or slow you down from following-through or moving forward with that amazing thing.

Two weeks ago, after posting this article about my mountaineering training plan, I invited people to come run stairs with me. No one did. While I wasn’t extremely discouraged, it did sting.

Then last weekend Andrea and I attended MEC Outdoor Nation’s Toronto retreat – a weekend where over 135 18-30 year-olds hung out and brainstormed ways to inspire others to get outside. While there people mentioned time, money, and motivation as barriers to getting out more. Thinking about my invitation for people to train with me, we came up with a plan to invite people to train with us every week. When I stood up and told the group about the plan, several others came over and said they wanted to help. We then brainstormed and decided to host a different free outdoor activity in Toronto every Wednesday at 7pm. We call it #DiscoverYourWild.

The group of us stood in front of the room and presented this idea and everyone voted us in the top 3 ideas! It felt amazing and validating and inspiring. We received some funding to help us move this idea forward, but the votes were the most rewarding part. There’s something truly gratifying about people whose opinions you value and respect saying, “We think what you’re doing is worth doing…and we want to help you succeed.”

Last week we hosted our first activity – a 5km run – and 6 people came out. Thinking about the week before, when no one joined, I was so touched when I saw people showing up that week. More importantly, I felt motivated to keep going.  I know my peers are paying attention and want me to succeed. In turn I feel accountable to them and this idea and I think that is one of the best kinds of motivation.


What’s an idea you’re working on that you’ve presented to a group of peers? Or maybe something you’re still unsure of?

Get weekly reminders of our #DiscoverYourWild meetups and stories of motivation like this delivered to your inbox every Monday – click here.

 


COLD: how Cory Richards’ story about being cold motivated me to climb mountains

Short films can be powerful little beasts, transporting you to another reality for one second to, well, 19 minutes in this case. Back in March, this story came up in conversation while we were interviewing Erin Mccutcheon about her winter camping experience on Lake Winnipeg.   Erin, in passing, said, “Oh, I recommend this documentary short called Cold. It’s about climbers getting caught in an avalanche. It’s… I have no words to describe it.” Our eyes widened at the thought.

Doing my due diligence and driven by curiosity, I sought out the film and watched the trailer. It’s been over two months, and I’ve only brought myself to watch the film now.

As I sat down with the 19 minute piece I thought, “Why has it taken me so long to watch this?” As soon as I clicked play, I knew.

“Beautiful. Spectacular. Free…” narrates Cory Richards at 21, 959 feet and -46°C. Cory is one of three subjects in the short and also the cinematographer. “But it’s just so cold,” he says. “What the fuck am I doing here?”

My eyes welled.

cold_film_cory_richards_1

Cold is about the resilience, drive, and circumstance of three climbers – Cory, Simone Moro, and Denis Urubko – who attempt and succeed at climbing one of Pakistan’s 8000 meter peaks in winter. They were the first team to make it. Only 16 expeditions have attempted in the last 26 years, and these men were the first to make it.

If The Peakbaggers didn’t exist and I didn’t think about them constantly, I don’t know if my eye would have welled. I mean, I’m sure they would have but for a completely different reason. Think about being there, I thought. Because we will be. We won’t be on that mountain, no, but we’ll be on mountains and in the cold and asking ourselves what the heck we’re doing here just the same. Watching the extraordinary feat of fellow climbers, full of fear and questions of mortality and doubt, I was both inspired and astounded at once.

Will I be able to do this?

“Go gently,” Cory repeats; advice from his father before he left. The power that words have, the small moments that mean the world to you as you look at it from thousands of meters in the air… I will enjoy my coffee and my cats and that lipstick I bought last week, I thought. I will enjoy my runs through city parks and the birds I hear outside my windows. I pictured myself missing these things. Did I ever miss them… and I’m amid them.

Cold is a brilliant storytelling of experiencing some of the most difficult, testing emotions we are capable of experiencing. And all by choice. Why do we make these choices? Because we’re driven and inspired and astounded by this beautiful earth… and we want to be a part of that.

“What the fuck am I doing here?”

The answer is yes.

The most resonating part of Cold for me, as I learn more about the world, the earth, the climate, the change, the air, is when Cory sees the sun after being in darkness for days. “When the first rays hit me – graced me – not yet with warmth, but with light,” he says, “I know now that I am alive again, and a part of this world.”

How distant and disconnected you can feel from home when you are so far away from it at night in a tent as the snow and frost settle on your sleeping bag. Ishpatina in March was only around -20°C. In Cold, the temperature reaches -46°C. We’re in for a treat; nothing short of an incredibly beautiful, spectacular adventure.

cold_film_cory_richards_2

Watch the trailer for COLD here:

COLD – TRAILER from Forge Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

For a detailed account of the team’s climb, Outside Magazine published an article called “Partly Crazy With a Chance of Frostbit” available here.


Do you have a story about being COLD? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


20 Ways You Can Leave No Trace

There is a widespread and incredible attitude that people are adopting with whole hearts when it comes to being outdoors, typically camping or hiking or participating in nature activities. The attitude is, “Leave no Trace.”

That moment in Wild when Reece Witherspoon (portraying Cheryl Strayed) tries to light a fire with a match and the match goes out… What does she do? She throws it on the ground! I was reeling! Instead, respectful hiking guidelines would suggest collecting that match or throwing it back in to the fire. Something as small as a match makes a big difference.

If you’re not familiar with these three words, “leave no trace” is the practice of enjoying and experiencing nature and leaving your surroundings just as you found them – like you were never there. This means taking home with you all the packaging, waste, and property you possess or create, and leaving the plants and trees, flowers and rocks, and all you come across where in its place. There are a bunch of resources now about how to be more respectful to your environment. You can explore the seven principles across the web (Scouts Canada has this pdf, and there’s also a leavenotrace.ca non-profit initiative to check out).

thepeakbaggers-leavenotrace

I learned about “leaving no trace” quite early on in my adolescence and became a bit obsessed with adopting it into my daily life, despite living in the city. How can I leave no trace… all the time?

With an onslaught of information and research, I decided to take small steps towards a larger goal: to leave as little trace as I can in my every day life. I decided to consume less and live more. I spend less money on things and instead I save up for experiences. I thought about my use of water, food, and material goods and decided to be more mindful.

Here are some things I do every day that I didn’t do before I committed to leaving no trace:

  • I always bring a reusable bag for my groceries. If I forget, I don’t take a plastic bag. I carry my purchases in my arms. It’s really important to remember this, I tell myself constantly.
  • I always use a reusable coffee cup when I’m out (Keep Cup makes amazing cups that are standard sizes (8, 12, 16oz) light, small, and available at many cafes) and a Nalgene bottle (BPA free for $14 at MEC) or glass for my water. I’ve vowed to never take a disposable bottle of water unless I’m dying from dehydration. It might seem extreme but I’m proud of this commitment (check out Ban the Bottle for some quick facts).
  • I try to shake dry my hands in public washrooms instead of using paper towel or hand dryers. Think of that over flowing garbage can of paper towel in every washroom and multiply it by the number of businesses on that street, in that neighbourhood, in that city, in that province, in that country that have the same bin… I don’t want to contribute to that waste. I try to avoid hand dryers because electricity is valuable and I don’t want to waste it.
  • On that note, I turn off the lights in all the rooms I do not occupy. I even turn off the lights in public bathrooms in offices that are quiet and, thus, don’t get much bathroom attendance. What a waste!
  • I turn off the tap while I’m brushing my teeth. Water running when you’re not using it is big waste. I also have a jug of water that I pour undrinkable water in to and use it to water my plants. Water from boiling hard boiled eggs, cups of water that my cats have sneakily drank out of, and water I used in my hot water bottle, for example, would go into this jug.
  • I pay attention to what goes down the drain. A while back I became shockingly aware of the affect my shampoos, soaps, conditioners, etc. have on the world’s water. A great many chemicals found in shampoos, soaps, and perfumes (like parabens, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate) are not filtered out at treatment plants and can end up in our oceans causing serious distress to aquatic life. Now I buy all-natural, biodegradable products.
  • I wash my clothes on cold. This saves energy and reduces carbon pollution.
  • I always try to bike more than drive or take public transit. I never really wanted a car, but I ended up with one. After happily selling it and hopping on a bike, I not only feel mobile and healthy but this movement is powered by my body. And I’m outside, and that feels amazing. We also used Autoshare, an affordable car sharing service, which offers hybrid vehicles. Autoshare allows us access to a vehicle without the extra cost, and the hybrid vehicles aren’t as awful as those gas guzzlers out there!
  • I eat all the food I buy, unless it’s absolutely rotten. I plan my meals around what is in my fridge with the goal to throw out as little as possible. Even if I don’t feel like eating something, I get creative and make it into a meal. With an open mind, you can usually find something pleasing to create!
  • I try to shop as local as possible. I try my best to buy food with minimal packaging, sticking to market vegetables and such.
  • I ditch saran wrap and use tupperware. This is an easy one!
  • I try to carry a small silver fork with me. Plastic cutlery is yet another form of waste and I’ll try to reuse it if I’m stuck without my mini silver ikea fork (they’re small and perfect for purses and knapsacks!). A MEC spork would also work, and would be a bit lighter!
  • I upcycle, refurbish, and practice sustainable living. Wherever I can I reuse or remake something old into something usable or workable. Brian and I even created a company called Porch Light which sells coffee soap because we were tired to throwing out our coffee grinds! You’d be surprised what you can make with things you ditch on the daily!

To some, these steps may seem like no brainers, but before I decided to live this way, I wasn’t living this way. These practices are all conscious decisions I make on a daily basis, and despite practicing these for over 10 years, I still have to tell myself to make them. I still have to encourage myself to gather my produce in my arms when I forget my bags, to stay at the cafe for my coffee when I forget my cup, and to make a salad at home when I have all the fixings but want to order pizza instead. Indeed, I do more and there’s a lot more that I can do, and I’m moving toward it on a daily basis.

It’s important to take small, mindful steps towards the direction you want to head. It’s important to be an example for those around you. It’s important to speak up about things you believe in, and to share your thoughts with people who may not understand where you’re coming from. It’s important to lead the life you want to live, and I want don’t want to leave a material trace, but rather an experience.


What are some things you’re doing to “leave no trace”? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.


Socks, Mitts, Liners, Batteries… Bears…

The more pieces of clothing – socks, mitts, liners, batteries – that I gather, the closer we get to Mount Logan. Am I getting ahead of myself?

Tomorrow we embark on a winter camping trip; our first summit of 13. Ishpatina Ridge it’s called, in a beautifully named Ontario provincial park called Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater (a person I tried to learn about but only came across the names of two water bodies: Lady Evelyn River and Lake Smoothwater). A trail of thoughts run through my mind every time I think about how little experience I have, followed by an immediate thrill at the same notions.

“Oh, this is the perfect time,” Nik told us when we visited him at MEC Toronto last week. “The bears are coming out of hibernation…” I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence. I need to pick up a bear bell, I thought.

I spent a year in Vancouver trying to see a bear. I hung out at a salmon hatchery for an entire day – twice – because places like that are normally rich with wildlife. I drove to Tofino, along the Sunshine Coast, to Squamish, and around Whistler with my eyes peeled… multiple times. I camped beside the ocean and walked around quietly searching. I drove up and down logging roads slowly and surely, missing a family by two minutes (the other car in our clan saw that wonder). I skirted around North Vancouver because I was told bears were easily spotted there. I didn’t see one anywhere.

In Wilderness_Andrea Wrobel

“It’s very much still winter up here,” Lady-Evelyn Smoothwater Park superintendent, Kevin Pinkerton told Brian yesterday. The bears are still sleeping.

My first experience with a bear is going to be amazing. When that will be, no one can say. This sort of fear – the best kind – drives my ambition forward. Like my fears of trying something new, the mere thought of existing the same place as a bear thrills me. Growing up in the city and with parents who took me to a number of zoos, to African Lion Safari, to Sea World and Marine Land… I was profoundly affected as a child by the feeling that something wasn’t right with all these places. Businesses. That these animals were brought in so that we could see them; so that we knew they were real. In wilderness – in a park like Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater, or on a mountain like Logan – I am the animal and the bears, birds, foxes are the spectator; a sort of role reversal that I yearn to bask in… and leave untouched.

It’s likely that all we’ll encounter this weekend is ourselves and our ideas; our new boots that we’ll be breaking in and the flurries that are to potentially pass us by. Still a visitor by nature, we embark on this adventure: a 5 hour drive from Toronto ending with 70km of logging road leading to the beginning of the trailhead, a 15 km hike up the ridge, to a beautiful view of Ontario – snowstorm pending – from the tallest point in the province.


Never miss an update from out journey, subscribe to our newsletter.